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Reid Punts On Insurance Industry Anti-Trust Exemption

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Senate negotiators have decided not to include a provision revoking the insurance industry's anti-trust exemption in the bill leadership sends to the floor, said two Democratic aides close to the merger talks. Instead, the measure will be offered as an amendment on the Senate floor.

The House health care bill, unveiled Thursday, includes a revocation of the exemption.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who makes the final decision on what goes into the bill, recently testified in favor of revoking the exemption.

Requiring insurers to follow anti-trust laws is broadly popular as a way to look tough battling the insurance industry. "I'm not here to defend the health insurance industry," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Tuesday, while explaining why he opposed a public health insurance option. "I'm open to supporting the removal of the antitrust exemption for the insurance industry. I'm prepared to support it. I don't want to be cute with my words. I will support it if it comes up."

The 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act exempts the insurance industry from anti-trust laws.

The merged bill will, however, include a public option that will compete with private insurers.